Problems at home: Experts identify common issues

LIMA — It sounds so sanitized when you call them “housing problems.”

For Chris Henderson, it could mean watching raw sewage pour out of a backed up pipe for 30 minutes into someone’s yard.

For Fred Wheeler, it’s climbing into a crawl space and realizing all the floor joists rotted out during a mold outbreak.

For Tom Wick, it’s keeping his mouth shut after giving an estimate on a replacement roof overtop a home that doesn’t seem worth saving.

“I’ve been in the business for 27 years,” Wick said. “I’ve never personally said that, but in my mind, I’ve thought, ‘This thing needs to go down,’ at least a few hundred times.”

As the region continues to work through having affordable housing attractive to various groups and professions, it’s helpful to consider the types of issues facing the housing stock here.

Older homes

Older homes tend to have more “housing problems,” which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines as costs exceeding 30% of household income, more than one occupant per room or incomplete kitchen or incomplete plumbing. Statewide, 19% of people have housing problems by that definition, HUD reports.

By a different HUD definition, about 1 in 175 homes in Ohio are “severely inadequate,” with 0.57% of homes having issues in heating, electric, upkeep, plumbing or wiring.

The bulk of the homes in the region are at least 45 years old, according to the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey. In Allen County, 74.3% of homes were built before 1979, including 32.5% of homes built more than 75 years ago. Auglaize County (68.2% built before 1979) and Putnam County (64.8%) have similar issues.

“Most of these kinds of issues you’ll find on some of the older stock around here,” said Fred Wheeler, speaking on behalf of owner Michael Wheeler of Wheeler Construction and Foundation Repair in Lima. “It’s just not as common in some of the newer builds.”

Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

Crumbling foundation

The most common exterior problem in Ohio, according to the 2015 American Housing Survey, involves the foundation of the house. It reported 9.32% of homes had foundation crumbling or with an open crack or hole.

In many cases, mold plays a role in the issue, Wheeler said. The key is to keep the humidity below 50% to keep mold from growing.

“It’s a moisture problem, whether it be in a crawlspace, basement or just the humidity of the house,” Wheeler said. “Mold thrives with those things.”

Once mold forms, it uses construction materials for its food source, Wheeler said. The statistics showed 2.88% of homes had mold sometime in the past year.

Roofing concerns

Sometimes that moisture and mold come from a leaky roof, with 12.01% of Ohio homes dealing with a water leak from outside the structure in Ohio, the American Housing Survey showed.

Many homes have potential roofing issues and just don’t know it yet, said Blake George, of Black Diamond Roofing in Ottawa. People may notice different colors on their shingles, which shows a potential problem. The sealing can also go askew, with moisture gathering beneath it, pushing shingles up.

The housing survey showed 4.58% of Ohio homes had missing roofing material, while 2.17% had a sagging roof and 1.52% had a hole in the roof. Newer roofs tend to work better, as Ohio beefed up its standards in the past 15 years.

Still, people shouldn’t get too confident with the warranties on their roofs, said Wick, of Black Diamond Roofing in Ottawa. You may be in the market for a new roof, which could cost $15,000, sooner than you expect.

“In Ohio, now the shingles are 40- to 50-year shingles. That doesn’t mean it’s a 40- to 50-year warranty on the roof, though. That’s what a a lot of homeowners don’t grasp. The shingles may be warranted by the manufacturer for that time, but the shingles could still come up and have issues.”

Pipe problems

Older homes are particularly susceptible to issues with their water and sewer pipes, said Henderson, of Steady Does It Mechanical Services. Some water and sewer tiles may have been made from clay, which could crack when tree roots grew into it.

“Back in the day, they weren’t using galvanized pipe. It was copper pipe and joints for lines. Water lines would get clogged up with buildup in it. You could have almost a needle pinhole of flow through that, and it’s like concrete in there.”

Even in a world of PVC pipes, there can be backups. Recently, he’s seen more sewer pipes backing up into a house during heavy rains because of clogs, including a memorable one at a newer home in Shawnee Township that resulted in a solid flow of sewage for 30 minutes after finding the clog in the line. The survey showed 2.83% of Ohio homes had this issue.

With water and sewer issues, you can often see signs of an ongoing problem, he said. He warned of hearing a gurgling in your toilet when you flush as a sign. You should also beware of bubbling up water in your storm drains as a possible sign. Even your grass can tip it off.

“If your water bill seems high, something to look for after a couple of dry days is to look at your grass. If it’s higher and more freshly green in any area, that could be a sign of a water leak.”

Expensive problems

The experts understand why so many people let their housing issues go for so long. People fear the costs, but putting off maintenance could be more expensive in the long run. They recommend getting a free inspection if you’re concerned.

“It’s not cheap,” Wick said of replacing a roof. “That’s the first thing that everyone tells the homeowners. But we have financing. We have ways to help you.”

The key is to not let a problem fester, Wheeler said.

“About 50% of people know they have a problem. They just don’t know the extent of it,” Wheeler said.

Source: American Housing Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.